Each one of us has a real probability of developing ophthalmic disease if we live long enough. It’s part of life — as you get older, your likelihood of developing cataracts, macular degeneration, or another ophthalmic disease rises significantly. And that’s for the lucky among us who have not suffered from visual impairment or blindness earlier in life. But unlike many other life-changing ailments, the difference with many of the most prevalent ophthalmic diseases is that they are curable with minor surgery … if you can get it. Unfortunately for many of us — not just in the developing world, but here in developed healthcare landscapes — surgery is less accessible than it should be.
That’s why, while many early-stage investments require a detailed explanation — what the market really consists of, what the problem exactly is, why the time is now — and the posts about them build a sophisticated argument for the decision to invest, I don’t have to do that. The beautiful thing about Eclipse Ventures’ investment in ForSight Robotics, a seed-stage company building a robotic platform for ophthalmic surgery, is how self-evident an investment it is.
The reality that there is massive need for (and a dearth of) quality ophthalmic care is well-known, the efficacy of robotics to enable precise and repeatable microsurgery has been exhibited in the real world, and the deep bench of technologists and ophthalmic surgeons — not to mention the trio of surgical robotics’ most successful founders — all associated with ForSight have more than proven themselves in this space.
On top of this, ForSight is building a product which not only improves the standard of care, but vastly increases access to care by empowering surgeons with an end-to-end system to execute consistent surgeries on more patients. That means more people can get the quality surgery they need.
Having said that, it is worth some more detail here. What ForSight is addressing is a big and growing problem in healthcare globally, and one which to date doesn’t have any viable competitors working on a solution. Many millions of optical surgeries are done every year, and as the global population lives longer and our largest generations age, the caseload is expected to increase. As it is, there are not enough ophthalmic surgeons to meet today’s need: Affluent nations have on average 72 eye surgeons per million people, and low-income countries average an order of magnitude fewer.
The lack of available care is more than just a matter of gross numbers (how many doctors to number of patients in need); it’s also a question of surgical skill. It takes time to become proficient in ophthalmic surgery, a specialization which requires particular skill due to the incredible precision and manual skills required in operating on such a small and sensitive organ, as well as the complication of the equipment used. With robotics, however, surgeons who were formerly unqualified to perform refractive surgeries are enabled to do so. And with the introduction of automation, multiple robotic surgeries can be performed at once — with the surgeon only intervening in instances where complications arise. This means an increase in the availability of surgeons to meet the growing need for ophthalmic surgery.
Now, although the solution may be obvious, it is not easy to build. Ophthalmic surgery calls for a system that is dexterous and maneuverable in all six degrees of freedom, with the capability of executing intricate tasks with microsurgical precision. It requires extremely sophisticated robotics and machine learning, state-of-the-art stereoscopic imaging technology for surgical planning, real-time image guidance, and clear visualization. And all of this needs to be coordinated in a product which doctors can intuitively and effectively use.
It is the ForSight team’s unique ability to capably navigate this journey of product development, approval processes, and going to market that sets them apart. That they have already made progress against building something that works is a testament to the capability and focus of the founders, and the expertise and experience of the team means that, although it will be a heavy lift technically, getting to the end goal here is a question of time rather than of probability. Dr. Daniel Glozman, ForSight’s CEO, has spent 20 years in leadership roles at multiple medical robotics companies, and Dr. Joseph Nathan, the company’s CBO, himself is a physician and directed healthcare commercialization at the Technion. It goes without saying that Professor Moshe ShohamIt is the ForSight team’s unique ability to capably navigate this journey of product development, approval processes, and going to market that sets them apart. That they have already made progress against building something that works is a testament to the capability and focus of the founders, and the expertise and experience of the team means that, although it will be a heavy lift technically, getting to the end goal here is a question of time rather than of probability. Dr. Daniel Glozman, ForSight’s CEO, has spent 20 years in leadership roles at multiple medical robotics companies, and Dr. Joseph Nathan, the company’s CBO, himself is a physician and directed healthcare commercialization at the Technion. It goes without saying that Professor Moshe Shoham is a renowned figure in the space of medical robotics, where he has founded numerous successful companies. The involvement of Fred Moll (Intuitive Surgical, Auris Health) and Rony Abovitz (Mako Surgical, Magic Leap) is a supercharging asset.
As we start this journey into a market that hasn’t seen much equipment innovation since the femtosecond laser ($1.4B of which were sold in 2019), we’re leveraging the full power of the team to bring to market a solution that is truly end-to-end, in hopes that doctors not only increase their bottom line, but that patients across the globe can receive the quality ophthalmic care that can restore their eyesight.
Robotics is going to be an important element of democratizing healthcare in the future, and we’re proud to have Mithril Capital — one of the most experienced investors in surgical robotics — join us in this seed round. This may be the worst pun I make all year, but we clearly share the foresight that this company is bound to make a major impact.
Does It Work?Read More
Manifest 2023: There’s Never Been a Better Time to BuildRead More
Building Infrastructure for Healthcare and Life SciencesRead More
How to Get Big Ideas FundedRead More